I have been asked about the differences in culture regarding Christmas in the US for me and the Norwegian style Christmas with my husband’s family. Here is a list I have made of comparisons.
US: Fake or real trees. Most people get fake ones. The tree can go up as early as the beginning of November. My family put it up the day after thanksgiving or around then. Decorations include a star on top of the tree to symbolize the North Star.
NORWAY: Fake or real trees. Many get a real tree. The tree is beginning to follow the American tradition of being put up earlier, however, tradition here is to put it up a little bit before Christmas like the 21st-23rd.
US: We made sugar cookies as children. We would cut them out in shapes and decorate them with colorful sugar dyed in various colors. As we got older there were “cookie exchanges” where there would be a Christmas party where everyone would bring cookies and share them. There would also be cookies as gifts. Some relatives of mine make cocoa, cookie, cake and coffee mixes to use in the coming year. Egg nog exists with alchohol. . . .or no alchohol. You can buy it in a store.
NORWAY: Juleman, risboller, pepperkaker. . . . many different cookies are made. There are pasteries and cookies, rather than cake in his family. Cookies aren’t really given as gifts but are a bigger tradition to make and eat in Norway. Glögg is drank. Glögg is a mulled Christmas wine with spices like cinnamon, sugar and orange and sometimes raisins.
US: Presents are opened with the person who gave them to you. It does not have to be on Christmas morning but typically the majority of Christmas gifts are opened Christmas morning after Santa brings them to you down the chimney. My family would eat orange cinnamon rolls and coffee Christmas morning, put on Christmas Jule log (a fireplace recording with Christmas music) and open gifts.
NORWAY: Presents are ALL opened together Christmas eve night. Santa brought the gifts (and he is from Norway) If someone gives you a present, you must wait until Christmas Eve. You never open a Christmas present early.
US: People scramble to shop for presents. Nothing in particular is special this day.
NORWAY: Norwegians call this day “little Christmas”. They eat risgrøt or rice porridge. They put a almond in the pot and whoever finds the almond wins a gift.
US: This is my family’s tradition. We go to my grandmother’s house in the evening and have some Italian food like baked mostaccoli or Italian sub sandwiches. Then we open all the presents she gave us. We would go to mid-night Mass (Catholic church service) that starts at midnight. Then we would go home and wait for Santa Claus to bring the rest of the presents.
NORWAY: People gather with their families. Tradition says to have pinnekjott, potatoes, carrots, ruttabega and grisemør. This is the time where presents are opened from Santa Claus, family and friends all at once. This day is the most important day.
US: Everyone opens their gifts in the morning. Children and adults mess with them all day until the night where there is a feast. What people eat varies. My family has a ham and always an Italian dish such as ravioli. This day is the most important.
NORWAY: Children play with their presents. You eat leftovers and it is a day for the parents to relax.
Those are the traditions. What are your traditions like!?